How to Sustain the Christmas Spirit All Year Long
by Sydney Avey
Christmas gives us special moments of unity that we wish we could sustain throughout the year. If we’ve taken time to delight someone with a gift, wish him well with a card or otherwise express our appreciation, we’ve joined together in celebration. Perhaps we’ve attended inspirational Christmas performances, revisited old family customs that bind us together or set new traditions that engender hope for the future. Whether our celebration was a too-short intermission in our daily lives or a deeply satisfying period of time to devote to worship, family and friends, it’s over now. We’ve penned our last wish for peace, love and joy and boxed up the tinsel and lights. But the thought remains, Why can’t we keep the Christmas spirit of “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14) all year long?
That Christmas is followed by the New Year causes us to reflect on the past year’s events and embrace the coming year with hope. As I added messages of good will to my Christmas cards this year, the act of focusing on words of peace was particularly meaningful. One of the seasonal joys is that the rancorous speech that plagues our world abates somewhat.
Although the practice of setting New Year’s resolutions has come under fire recently, many of us set a heart intention or pick a Bible verse to guide us forward. In my daily Bible reading, I came across a verse that can help extend the spirit of Christmas. In Colossians 4:6 (NLT) Paul urges, “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you have the right response for everyone.” Pair this encouragement with James’s exhortation that we plant seeds of peace (James 3:18, NLT) and you have a powerful antidote to the angry speech that pervades our culture.
Gracious and Attractive Speech
One of the titles for Jesus is Word of God. Words are expressions of thought. Jesus came to express God’s thoughts to us. Might we express those thoughts to others graciously and attractively in both word and deed? Our words matter. Here are some actions we can take to extend the peace, love and joy we wish people at Christmastime all year long.
Notice the people around you. The harried checker behind the counter; the frazzled mom in the grocery aisle who wrestles with a misbehaving toddler; the fragile woman in the wheelchair; the impatient man in a slow-moving line; the teen with purple hair, piercings and tattoos—God sees their situations. He knows their hearts. We don’t.
Disengage from assumptions. A recent film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, did an exceptional job of portraying where we go wrong when we make assumptions about other people’s motives and culpability. Move beyond appearances and consider what the people around you might need to relieve the anxiety of the moment or the sense of isolation that often masquerades as attitude.
Pray. A simple prayer is best. God, give me words. If He doesn’t, pray for the person you notice. If He does, speak the words of peace He gives you.
Engage with people. Make eye contact and let the store clerk know you aren’t in a rush. Give the frazzled mom your best “been there” smile. Lower your gaze to acknowledge the wheelchair-bound woman. Refrain from knee-jerk reactions to the complainer. Appreciate the fragile teen soul behind the creative self-expression.
Respond with love. Don’t be nice, be kind. Nice is a polite response that keeps people at a distance. Kindness considers a person’s situation and offers heartfelt concern or appreciation. Gentle humor, commiseration or a sincere compliment can redirect the person who has fallen into a bad frame of mind.
While waiting in line at the post office this Christmas, a business man behind me said he had a plane to catch. The man behind him commented on the long line. When we began some idle chitchat about slow service, the business man quickly changed the tone of the conversation. “It’s really not that bad,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll make my flight.”
The other man started in on poor airline service and surly TSA reps. The business man said, “I fly out of Phoenix for business every week. My flights are almost always on time. The TSA people are great.” He talked about his experience with people all over the world. “We all want the same thing,” he said. “A home, a job and a good education for our kids.” Not only did he turn the conversation around, he lifted the spirits of everyone in line with his observations.
When my turn at the counter came, I stepped back and told the businessman to go ahead of me. “No need,” he said. “I insist,” I said. He mailed his package and on the way out, he handed me a gift—a bright red rubber giraffe with his company logo. The other man whispered in my ear, “That was classy.” The cheerful giraffe stands on my desk and reminds me to practice kindness.
The Right Response for Everyone
A smile and a change in our posture to show that we are relaxed and willing to wait softens hearts, changes moods and restores a measure of faith. In a world that is seemingly so connected, many people live alone and go unnoticed. A listening ear can relieve loneliness. And then there are times when God gives you just the right question to ask and you are privileged to touch a heart.
If you want to keep the Christmas spirit alive in 2018, plant seeds of peace with words of compassion, love and understanding.
Sydney Avey writes about dynamic women in changing times. She is the author of three historical fiction novels, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, The Lyre and the Lambs, and The Trials of Nellie Belle (coming in February 2018.) A native Californian, her writing celebrates the historic restless spirit that draws people to the West and the hope that sustains them in all types of hardships. She is a member of ACFW, Christian Author’s Network and Women Writing the West. Sydney and her husband divide their time between the Sierra foothills near Yosemite, CA, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. Visit her website at www.sydneyavey.com.
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